Is the expulsion of pro-democracy NGOs from the United Arab Emirates the latest indicator that the Arab Spring is losing steam? Regimes are emboldened by Egypt’s prosecution of similar U.S.-based and indigenous civil society groups, analysts suggest, and are striving to reverse the democratic thrust of the region’s protest movements.
The U.A.E. recently closed down the German-based Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a Christian Democratic group that runs civic education programs, the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute, and the Abu Dhabi offshoot of the Gallup polling group.
The backlash is closing political space and stifling freedom of expression, The New York Times reports:
Belabbes Benkredda founded Dubai Debates just over a year ago, intending for it to be a platform for discussing the most important issues facing the Arab world today. Funded by groups such as KAS and Vital Voices, he held discussions on a range of topics, including the future of energy in the Gulf.
But today Mr. Benkredda has decided to indefinitely suspend Dubai Debates and turn his efforts to creating a sister organization called Munathara, the Arabic word for debate, in Tunis. A post-Arab Spring Tunisia has created a hospitable legal environment for nongovernmental organizations, one very different from that in the U.A.E. today, he said.
Mr. Benkredda said he had lined up another sponsor, Freedom House, another U.S.-based pro-democracy group. Munathara’s first event is planned for June 27 in Tunis. The topic is “Free Expression in the Arab World.”